ERITREAN national football team which vanished from the 2012 Cecafa Challenge Cup has surfaced in Gorinchem, a city in the western Netherlands, according to Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad (AD).
The team ended up in the Netherlands coming via Romania in Eastern Europe. The newspaper followed the players through the city on Friday saying that they still have to get used to the constant rain – nonetheless the players were happy.
The team lost against Rwanda in December 2012 at the regional tournament which was held in Uganda. The players were allowed an afternoon shopping after the match, but never returned.
Two days later, the Ugandan Minister for Refugee Affairs announced that seventeen players and their team doctor have applied for asylum in Uganda rather than to return to their country.
Eritrea treats discontent or defection with punishment and therefore the team was granted asylum in Uganda. Young Eritreans often try to escape poverty, a repressive government and national military service.
The team stayed on the streets and in various refugee camps while in Uganda, according to the newspaper reports.
They finally made it to Europe travelling via Romania – it is unclear how they made the journey.
The team ended up in the Netherlands through the help of international organisations.
Gorinchem was selected as their new home town randomly, as the Netherlands divides asylum seeker applicants according to population proportions to different municipalities.
The former players have been divided in groups of three or four and live in different homes.
Last year, the Cecafa Challenge cup tournament held in Kenya, eleven members of the Eritrean national football team, disappeared from their hotel and defected.
Since its being a tradition of losing its football players on practically every African tournament, Eritrea has of recent decided to skip some of crucial tournaments to curb on the issue.